Tuesday, November 15, 2011

Thomas Buchanan Read

“A Man of Many Talents”

I’ve sewed, knitted, crocheted, patiently tatted, tried oil painting, hooked a rug, glued tiny curls of paper, constructed fabric frames, produced stacks of calligraphy, collected postcards, created miniature furniture, and scrapbooked long before it became the thing to do.

At some point I realized that I need to focus on just a few things. That is still a hard for me to do. Now I’m into writing. I’m writing Pennsylvania history books, but other topics and genres still attract and entice me.

Yesterday, I was working on a biography of Thomas Buchanan Read. This morning I am thinking about who he was and what made him famous.

Thomas Read grew up in a little place called Corner Ketch in Chester County, Pennsylvania, where he first worked for a tailor, At age fifteen, he worked in Philadelphia for grocer and also a tobacconist. After that he moved to Cincinnati, Ohio, to live with his sister where he learned portrait painting and sculpting. He began to work his way through the eastern United States, sometimes as a sign painter. After meeting Henry Wadsworth Longfellow who encouraged him to write, he published a book of poetry and created a serial story for a magazine. As a soldier in the Civil War, he wrote patriotic songs. He also took up drawing and produced thirty-seven sketches of an immigrant family living along the Susquehanna River.

Today, Thomas Read’s most well-known work is a lyrical poem called “Sheridan’s Ride.” and a ten-by-fourteen foot portrait of Union General Sheridan on his horse. Mr. Read, inspired by a photo in the newspaper and the accompanying account, wrote about General Sheridan’s furious ride from Washington, D.C. to Cedar Creek, Virginia. General Sheridan had been on business in Washington and learned of the engagement of his troops. On arrival at Cedar Creek, Sheridan found the Confederates had the upper hand, but he rallied his troops and won. Later, Mr. Read painted a huge portrait of Sheridan as he had appeared in the photo in the newspaper.

Should we work to develop many talents? Or do we miss the best by trying too many things? Would Thomas Buchanan Read still have been famous if he had stuck to one specialty? Or would he have been even more famous?

I don’t know the answers to those questions, but they make think of where my focus should be-- pleasing the Lord. In whatever I do, I need to pray and seek His direction to develop my God-given gifts for His pleasure and His glory.

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